As mobile devices continue to gain in popularity, California has taken a step to limit their use by state employees. Gov. Jerry Brown announced on Wednesday, June 8, that 29,398 cell phones have been eliminated from state use — a 44 percent reduction in state agencies and departments.

This is just the first round of cuts. Brown’s target goal is to remove a total of 33,559 cell phones from state service, which would equal a 50 percent reduction statewide. The cutbacks are expected to save approximately $13 million.

Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said that Brown’s own office has achieved a 75 percent cutback of its cell phones to set an example for the rest of the state.

“In a time like this with these fiscal circumstances, it is critical that people are making cuts where they can,” Westrup said. “The answer is pretty simple: If the governor can do it, state employees can do it as well.”

Devices eliminated include cell phones, smartphones and air cards, but do not include tablets, according to Westrup.

An executive order issued in January originally identified 96,000 devices that were in service throughout the state. That figure was later revised to 67,117 after further investigation concluded that thousands of phones were actually other types of telecommunications devices not under the governor’s authority, or simply had been deactivated already.

Various state departments in California have applied for 4,916 exemptions that would spare their cell phones from the cost-cutting move, according to figures issued by Brown’s office. While Brown said exemptions would be made for mission-critical use and public safety, the governor remained committed to the reduction.

“We will deny exemption request — or force deeper cuts to other agencies and departments — to ensure the 50 percent reduction is realized within 30 days,” Brown said in a press release.

State employees who are denied access to a state-issued cell phone shouldn’t get in the habit of using their personal device with the hope they’ll be reimbursed for work-related costs, according to Westrup. The spokesman maintained that departments and agencies should instead take a hard look at who really needs a mobile phone to do their jobs.

“I think this is an elimination that is geared toward saving money,” Westrup said. “If you are eliminating cell phones and then people using their personal cell phones are billing the state, you’re not going to achieve a cost savings — and it frankly defeats the order.”

Brian Heaton  |  Senior Writer

Brian Heaton is a senior writer for Government Technology. He primarily covers technology legislation and IT policy issues. Brian started his journalism career in 1998, covering sports and fitness for two trade publications based in Long Island, N.Y. He's also a member of the Professional Bowlers Association, and competes in regional tournaments throughout Northern California and Nevada.